AUSTINTOWN — Everyone, at some point in their life, wishes they could be a superhero.
For Austintown resident Julian Jacoby Ford, 31, it was Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego, whom he wanted to emulate by taking pictures. He saw the 2002 movie starring Tobey Maguire when he was 12 or 13 and realized that photography could be his profession.
“I liked Parker’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Ford said, noting that he was also inspired by the animated TV show “Rocket Power.”
However, after watching the movies and reading countless “Spider-Man” comics, those in his life didn’t see photography as a real job he could pursue. So Ford put it all aside. But not too long.
Ford’s first camera, a Nikon Cool Pix, was a gift from his parents, Joann and Al, in the late 1990s. It later evolved from taking photos just for fun to an 8 mm. Ford said he always films friends and family, as well as family vacations.
He said he strives to capture the spirit and courage of the people he photographs and wants his photographs to reflect integrity, empathy and honesty. Photography is a delicate balance between light and dark as well as subject matter, Ford said. Through his own studies and personal practices, he said he had improved.
Around 2016, Ford and a close friend who was a photographer started shooting side-by-side UrbanX photography, which is the art of finding old and abandoned buildings, exploring them, and taking pictures as you go. At this point, Ford began to realize after taking photos of his friend while they were exploring that he was really good at photographing people.
Ford bought his first professional camera at age 26 with the idea of using it for eventual YouTube videos and photographing his peers. It was at a cousin’s wedding that he began taking candid photos of the wedding party, for which he received positive feedback.
He graduated from Youngstown State University in 2016. He studied to be a history teacher, but after graduating Ford said he “didn’t want to be in the academic situation the rest of his life”.
“I wish I had never listened to the person who discredited photography as a profession. I know I can’t be happy if I’m not my own boss,” Ford said.
While Ford was in college and even after graduation, he worked mornings at Pizza Hut and as a pizza delivery driver.
“I took the money from my paychecks and went to Barnes and Noble every week to buy more photography books. The first book I picked was ‘Read This Book If You Want To Take good pictures of people,” by Henry Carroll,” he said.
Studying people and their ways led him not only to excel in erotic urban photography, but also in concert photography at the West Side Bowl in Youngstown. Regarding his personal studies in European photography, Ford said: “Some people go into it for the wrong reasons as amateurs, or they took time off during the pandemic to try photography for the sole purpose of adding subscribers to their social media pages, not because they really like it. They post photos just for the likes.
A muse was found in his friend, “Ray”. He started with studio sessions and found in her a light of being.
“She was brilliant. So comfortable in her own skin and unafraid of being photographed naked that it helped me find solace behind the camera and see the beauty in the human form,” Ford said.
What sets Ford apart from other photographers is not only his eagerness to constantly educate himself, but also to practice his knowledge. It is also the relationship he weaves with his models during portraits.
“I learned to talk with the models and find out what they like and dislike in previous photos taken by others of themselves or what might be going on with them while I’m photographing them. A model told me she does a particular move with her face which means she’s stuck in her head what she might look like.When she does that I let her know and she eases the tension. , leading to a better photo. It’s not just about what I want and what I see, it’s also about how the model feels – it’s reflected in the photos.
Currently, Ford works at YM Camera and continues to learn while gaining more recognition from outsiders through his social media photography.
His photos of West Side Bowl owners Nate and Jami Offerdahl can be seen on the company’s social media pages, along with incredibly deep photos of his friend Clarence Gordon Jr. stop scrolling – to really look at them and notice them as art.
Ford offered the following advice:
∫ If you want to do something and you care about it, don’t let anyone influence you otherwise.
∫ Don’t be afraid to be different or weird. The best things come from originality.
∫ You don’t need super fancy equipment; you just need the reader to do that.
To see Ford’s work, check out his Instagram and Facebook pages.